Monday, February 25, 2008


Out cop's deathbed story wins an Oscar . . .

Generally speaking, I don't have an undue amount of admiration or respect for "The Hollywood Elite." They seem programmed to pat themselves on the back every chance they get, and America's idol-worship of these people can become tiresome. Still, every so often, Hollywood, along with the independent film community, goes a little beyond the glitz and the glamour and actually produces, promotes, and even honors filmmaking that encompasses so much more than the "big bucks" factor.

I don't know how many of you watched the Academy Awards last night, but there were a couple of historic moments . . . at least for the gay and lesbian community. They were moments that both surprised me . . . and moved me. This was one of them, as reported by PlanetOut:

Cynthia Wade won an Oscar on Sunday for her short documentary, "Freeheld," about the 2006 struggle of New Jersey police Lt. Laurel Hester's struggle to transfer her pension to her domestic partner during the final months of her life.

Hester, who worked as a detective on the force for 25 years before battling cancer, took on the locally elected Ocean County Freeholders to give the financial security of her pension to her partner, Stacie Andree, a right automatically afforded to heterosexual married couples.

The film is a look at the LGBT community's effort to face down bigotry interwoven with the touching journey of a couple coming to terms with the end of their time together.

"It was Lt. Laurel Hester's dying wish that her fight against discrimination would make a difference for all the same-sex couples across the country that face discrimination every single day -- discrimination that I don't face as a married a woman," Wade, who directed the film, said during her acceptance speech.

She also thanked her husband for taking care of their children and holding down a full-time job while she worked on the film.

Producer Vanessa Roth added, "And to all our supporters and our families who believed that even a 38-minute movie could change minds and lives, and to our children, who remind what's really important. And to Stacie, who's here tonight, who's really auto mechanic by day but hero in life and always did what was right."

"Freeheld" has been awarded the Special Jury Prize at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and the Audience Awards at Outfest, Newfest and the Palm Springs International Film Festival. (The Advocate)

It was the honest emotion embedded in both Wade's and Roth's acceptance speeches, which spoke volumes of truth as great as those of the film itself. Note that American service men and women in Iraq announced the nominees and winner for Best Documentary: Short Subject. Also note another bit of irony: it was Tom Hanks, who portrayed a gay man dying of Aids in the unforgettable film "Philadelphia," who presented the Oscars to Wade and Roth.

This is how far we've come, people. In 1991, when my partner passed away, it did not even OCCUR to me that, for every spousal intent and purpose other than what the law provided, I was entitled to any spousal benefits. Even my own perceptions of self and relationships, as a gay man, were distorted by subconscious acceptance of society's intolerance. That was 17 years passed, approaching a generation ago. So we have made some progress, folks, but the even greater truth is: we still have an even longer road ahead of us . . .


Boston_Betty said...

Shameful...absolutely shameful that somebody cannot decide who should receive their pensions after they're gone! What utter bullshit! Shame on this country!

val said...

When I first started teaching - in 1976 - my husband could leave me his pension, but I would have had to pay extra to leave him mine. He was supposed to fill in my tax returns "for me" but I refused to tell the tax people who I was married to, and they had to lump it.

Yes, things have moved on. But in the UK, many female local government workers are still being paid only half the hourly rate of their male counterparts, which has been illegal for 30 years.

SnarkAngel said...

While earnings discrepancies between the sexes have diminished over the last few years in the U.S., they still exist. The "old boys network" is still alive and well, unfortunately.